All of Our First Homes

Krista & I are in the process of making one of our long-term dreams come true. No, we didn’t win the lottery or become Dolly Parton’s best friends (unfortunately), but we are going to buy our first home. Our real estate search has been a real rollercoaster ride. Now that we’re looking toward closing a deal, things seem peaceful & quiet. Oh sure, we have to move all our worldly possessions, leave a house we dearly love, and learn about things like escrow (potentially a Martian species of worm?) and homeowner’s insurance (a racket & a scam if I ever heard of one). It was a hell of a ride to get here, though. Please, settle in for a long and disturbing tale.

First, we fell in love with this house. It was a little on the small side, 1100 square feet & 2 bedrooms, but we thought we could make it work. The yard was a blank slate, begging to be refashioned into all our crazy urban garden dreams. The hardwood floors were probably not original, but they were lovely & in fantastic shape. We hated the kitchen, but decided that a remodel in the kitchen was a small price to pay for cedar-lined closets & a walk-in pantry. It’s hard to remember all the reasons we loved it now, but we loved it dearly. It went under contract with someone else while we were trying to get our mortgage broker to call us back (we fired him as a result). It came back on the market, but the seller chose someone else’s offer. We decided not to be their back up. That deal fell through too, and we decided we didn’t want to be the next people to spend $400 on a home inspection to find out while these contracts kept falling apart. It was heart-breaking, but we moved on, optimistically looking forward to our Real Home. (how naive and fresh-faced we must have seemed back then, only 6 weeks ago)

We looked at this house, and loved it desperately. Even Levi loved it. It’s a three bedroom, in a less desirable location, but so charming and wonderful. I had a crush on this house immediately, with its gorgeous, original fir floors and retro kitchen and clawfoot tub. We loved this house, its history, the way the rooms unfolded with big windows and wide doorways, the secret garden, and the lovely porch. I could se us getting old on that porch, gray hair, arthritis, menopause in our rocking chairs. Then, our preliminary neighborhood research revealed something quite alarming. We found out that the neighborhood is located directly on top of a toxic plume of old dry cleaners/wood processing/industrial degreaser chemicals (a Superfund site), and as of September 2008, the EPA still finds those chemicals in indoor air & puddles on the street. We couldn’t in our heart of hearts say that we felt good about raising Levi, our pets, our vegetables, and future chickens there. We picked ourselves up, brushed off our cracked hearts, and tucked them back into our pockets.

We saw this house the first day it was on the market. It was at the top of our price range, but we liked it so much! It had some really unfortunately, cheesy “staging” with cardboard furniture, crappy beige carpet, a sort of 1990s kitchen, and the yard wasn’t fenced; but it had real potential. We could see ourselves living there, happily. The master bathroom closetS (there were 2 of them) were huge ( i laid down in one and rolled around screaming “my closet! my closet! i love my new closet!”) there was a clawfoot tub! We made an offer right away, the very best offer we could possibly make. The seller didn’t accept our *full price* offer because we asked them to pay closing costs. We were heart broken, but literally could not afford more than the (already inflated) listing price. We made an offer on this house 32 days ago. It’s still sitting on the market, not under contract. I think about this house sometimes. I wonder how many full price offers they have had since then. I wonder what it would be like if we had closed on our home today (we could have!) I wonder if the closing costs they could have paid will balance out the money you lose paying a mortgage & staging expenses on an empty house? Hard to say! I do plan on drinking a toast in their honor the day they lower the price below what they would have spent to close with us. I was glad that we got turned down when I found out the next-door neighbor has a pit bull that has attacked people! This is the sort of thing that makes you go “Everything Happens for a Reason” even if you are not normally the sort of person prone to believing in a grand cosmic cause & effect.

By this point, the concept of buying a house seemed like a far-off distant proposition. Closing on a house was just a mirage dreamed by a mad man. It was turning out to be much more complicated & difficult than we had expected. We soldiered on. Little did we realize what was in our future. At least we were getting good at writing offers….

We met this house, and instantly thought it was the most precious, charming, adorable, wonderful and cute house. The backyard bumped up against Levi’s dad’s house (major bonus), the location was ideal, the house was in awesome condition… but it was small. Like, really small. I mean, really really small. I don’t even want to say it. We probably would have outgrown it before we even owned 20% of it. We were so in love with Our New House however illogical it was. We made an offer & made plans to drastically change our lifestyle. We were going to be anti-materialistic. We were going to sell most of our belongings. Maybe we could get involved in the tiny house movement (I’m not making this up! Click here!) Our offer was accepted, well, sort of… we tried to go under contract but here’s the thing. Once again, we asked for closing costs. Seems like the sellers didn’t have any extra $$ to pay for closing – not like, they refused to pay for closing costs, but they literally couldn’t come up with it. We could have gotten around this – probably – but the house became “as is” condition. If anything came up in the inspection or appraisal, the sellers literally had NO ROOM to fix anything or lower the price. You can’t buy a house with no room for negotiations, something always comes up. We weren’t in a position to spend extra $$ when the appraisal came in short or there was a hypothetical expensive structural issue…. so we had to move on.

At this point in this sad tale, our spirits were very, very low. We felt like Sarah Palin must have felt on November 5th. In retrospect, I am glad we didn’t get that house. It is too small, and we might have lived to hate ourselves for buying it. but at the time, I felt like throwing up. I think this might have been right around the time our real estate agent started to suggest we look in Lacey. (as if that is even possible)

Then we saw this house. It might not be fair to include this house, because we never technically wrote an offer on it. In fact, only one of us liked it. That would be me. I really liked this house. This house seemed like an infinite opportunity to me. The location is GREAT. The house is ugly on the inside. It’s like someone’s crazy Aunt Bertie went buckwild on all her worst interior design ideas for like, four decades. Golden harvest shag carpet, meet your match, pink plastic tile back splash. Krista most rightfully pointed out that there was no way in hell we could afford to live there and fix it up to any reasonable level of attractiveness. We would be “house poor” for years. We don’t reasonably have the skills it would take to make this house cute within our budget. Krista is totally right about this, and I admit it fully, but I was secretly a little disappointed.

Then this little devil came on the market. Bank-owned (lots of red tape), less than ideal location, but so charming. This house was a foreclosure (the only one we looked at, surprisingly) and it was really, really dirty! But it was structurally sound, totally adorable with original hardwood floors and grates, updated electric and plumbing and HVAC. The big problem is that it is TINY. Waaaaaaaaaaay smaller than the other house that was so tiny I wouldn’t even tell you how tiny it was. As you can guess by this point in the story, we fell in love with this house. The problem with this house is that it would never appraise – the appraiser (under new laws, enacted in May) would not count the full basement, the sun porch, the finished attic bedroom, or the garage, bringing this house in at 624 square feet. The bank would never want to sell it for what it’s ‘worth’ to an appraiser.

On the (very firm) advice of our real estate agent, we had to just walk away with our tails between our legs. “Forget it, we’re never going to buy a house. It’s just never going to work,” we told each other. Our real estate agent told us she had never worked with people who encountered so many uniquely impossible situations. Krista and I both looked like this:

I’m sure you want a happy ending, now, and I want to give you one. I also want to get a decent night’s sleep, however, and this rambling has gone on far too long. Here’s a teaser picture, with four words: “SPOT FOR THE HAMMOCK”

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